Singapore’s birth rates are at an all-time low, with only 39,615 recorded births last year. This figure is the lowest its been in the last seven years, and the country’s fertility rate, currently at 1.16 is lower than the necessary percentage of 2.1 in order for the population to remain stable.
However, despite the smaller market for families with infants, baby-related businesses are actually enjoying a boom—partly due to increased individual wealth, as well as larger social networks, government endeavors, the gig economy, and e-commerce.
For example, the sector for toy manufacturing has earned S$ 211 million this year and most likely will be growing by over 20 percent per year, with a projected market worth of S$ 438 million by 2022, according to online research website Statista.
Furthermore, new ‘parent-preneurs’ have launched products and services for children, starting out by seeking to solve a problem they encountered, then going into business to market the solutions they themselves have found.
When one mother, Su Ling Zagorodnova, had a baby 12 years ago, she started a mommy blog about her child’s milestones as well as the products she used for her child. She ended up meeting a whole community of other mothers and discovered which of their needs were not easily met.
She started sewing baby slings and sold them on her blog—and ended up with her company, Pupsik Studio, becoming the country’s biggest e-tailer for baby products.
Similarly, local mother Nurjanna Ng has now become a ‘babywearing consultant’ wherein she teaches new mothers how to use a single piece of cloth as a carrier to hold their babies to themselves, leaving them hands-free. This started when she joined a local group on Facebook in 2013 specifically for ‘babywearing,’ which has grown from a few hundred back then to over 24,000 at present. Her new job started when she saw her sister carrying her newborn in a sling, and wanted to do the same.
Today Ng is the director of Soul Singapore, which manufactures baby carriers and is based in India. She says, “Social media is really powerful. It allowed mothers to network, share about the carriers they like and organize outings known as ‘sling meets’ to let other mothers try their carriers.”
The government is also doing its part in encouraging people to have more babies, including offering benefits and cash grants—and in the process has also helped to grow childcare industry. A few years ago Singapore’s Health Promotion Board started implementing World Health Organisation’s Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) guidelines, specifically those pertaining to breastfeeding in the public hospitals, which caused a surge in the demand for products and services related to breastfeeding, with lactation biscuits as one example.
New mother Johanna Goy started to bake cookies that encourage milk production in breastfeeding mothers, which she shared to her mommy group on Facebook. While she initially did not plan on selling these cookies, she received so many orders for them that she ended up leaving her job and become a full-time baker in her own store, Singapore Lactation Bakes.
Singapore now even has a co-working space called Trehaus, which has an area divided by a glass partition for parents to still see their babies in the childcare facility, even while they themselves are working. Elizabeth Wu, the chief operating officer of Trehaus, says that it ’s a “proverbial modern village; they say it takes a village to raise a child. Our community has become the ecosystem for work-life integration to happen for working parents with young children. We have had so many people walk through our doors to find the support they need as working parents.”
It looks like the baby businesses are booming in Singapore, but as for having more babies—this still needs more work.